When Don’t You Need Probate?

29 September 2017

If you are an Executor of a Will, or an Administrator if the deceased died without a Will, it is your responsibility to identify the assets and debts of the Estate and to distribute the balance to the beneficiaries.

Whether or not Probate is required to enable you to do this will depend primarily upon the value of the assets of the Estate, whether they were held jointly or in the sole name of the deceased, and the particular assets they held.

If the deceased owned a property then Probate will be required to sell or transfer it, unless it was owned as Joint Tenants with a co-owner who is still alive, in which case it passes automatically to the survivor on death. In this case a copy of the death certificate should be registered on the property title.

Where the value of a certain asset is less than £5,000, the bank or organisation holding that asset may allow it to be distributed without Probate. This can include:

  • Banks
  • Building societies
  • National Savings and Investments
  • Trade union and friendly society death benefits
  • Assets comprising of government stock.

However, these companies are not obliged to release the asset without Probate, and may not be inclined to do so if complications are likely to occur, perhaps due to a large number of beneficiaries.

In practice banks, share registrars, insurance companies and other financial institutions sometimes pay over the agreed amount, with each setting their own limits. A bank or financial institution may agree to accept signed indemnities instead of a Grant of Probate (or Letter of Administration where there is no Will). These limits can vary from £5,000 all the way to £50,000.

Where an asset is held in Trust they should not require a Grant of Probate. Life policies are often written in Trust for the benefit of others and are payable to the named beneficiary. Similarly, pension schemes sometimes pay a lump sum ‘death in service’ benefit. This is also held in Trust and payable at the discretion of the pension Trustees. As such it does not form part of the deceased’s Estate.

Personal possessions can be sold by the Executor of a Will without a Grant of Probate. Where there is no Will, Administrators do not technically have the authority to do so until a Grant of Letters of Administration is obtained. However, if Probate is not required for the other assets of the Estate then it is not necessary to obtain Probate purely to deal with the deceased’s personal possessions.

Even if you do not need a Grant, it can still be advisable to obtain one where the assets in the Estate are of a high value. This will help to protect you and your fellow Executors or Administrators, and will help to ensure the Estate is being correctly distributed.

With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excl VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs.

We can also pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral, providing the Estate owns sufficient assets which can be sold in due course to repay our costs.

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